Easy Shred Guitar Licks – Playing Melodic Neoclassical Guitar Licks
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If you like the sound of Yngwie Malmsteen’s neoclassical guitar licks...
... and want to learn melodic shred guitar licks that sound advanced, but are easy to play...
... you’ve come to the right place.
Most guitarists think that to play neoclassical guitar licks you need years of painstakingly slow guitar practice...
... or that shred guitar licks can’t sound melodic.
Neither belief is true.
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In this article, I’ll show you easy shred guitar licks that:
1. You can get under your fingers without a lot of practice (even if you are still an intermediate-level guitar player)
2. Sound melodic and are fun to play in just about any style.
Ready to start?
... grab your guitar, watch this Yngwie Malmsteen-style neoclassical guitar licks video and play along with the easy shred guitar licks inside:
If you loved the sound of these easy shred guitar licks, here are a few fast-acting guitar technique tips that help you play more advanced (faster) neoclassical guitar licks as well:
Neoclassical Guitar Playing Tip #1: Use Directional Picking
Directional picking is a simple and efficient guitar technique that adds maximum speed to your neoclassical guitar licks.
How do you directional pick when playing shred guitar licks?
You play alternate picking on a single string. When you change strings, you always use a downstroke when going to the higher (thinner) string. And use an upstroke when going to the lower (thicker) string.
In other words, you pick in the direction of the next string you play in your neoclassical guitar licks.
This helps to avoid the inefficiency that comes from playing shred guitar licks using strict alternate picking (where you often have to skip over the string you just played and use bigger motions to play your neoclassical guitar licks).
Yngwie Malmsteen uses this technique in many of his shred guitar licks and it’s a staple in his style of his neoclassical guitar playing.
Question: “Tom Hess, is the guitar technique of directional picking simply the same thing as economy picking? The description of the 2 guitar techniques sounds identical!”
Answer: No. With the guitar technique of economy picking, you have to pre-plan the shred guitar licks you play, to make sure every string change is done with a sweep picking motion.
Thus – you are less free in what guitar licks you can and cannot play with this guitar technique (economy picking).
With directional picking – you don’t have to pre-plan any part of your shred guitar licks. You simply pick in the direction of the next string (no matter what pick stroke happened before).
Sometimes, the guitar technique movements of directional picking and strict alternate picking are identical (because there is no other way to pick through it).
And other times, you are able to use sweep picking to move from one string to the next. But at no point are you restricted in what you can or cannot play in your neoclassical guitar playing style. You simply move ‘in the direction’ of the next note at all times. (Hence its name.)
That is exactly the system Yngwie Malmsteen uses.
Watch this guitar technique video to see a more thorough explanation and comparison between directional picking and economy picking:
Neoclassical Guitar Playing Tip #2: Practice Guitar Technique Integration
One of the big challenges of neoclassical guitar playing (and playing shred guitar licks in Yngwie Malmsteen’s style) is ability to integrate guitar techniques. In fact, one of the most underrated skills in Yngwie Malmsteen’s guitar technique is that very ability to ‘integrate’ guitar skills together.
So, what the heck is ‘integration’?
It’s the ability to smoothly connect a variety of guitar techniques together (without sounding ‘like’ you’re connecting a variety of guitar techniques together in your shred guitar licks).
How do you do practice integration in your shred guitar licks and improve your guitar technique?
Here are the steps:
Step 1: Isolate the connecting fragment between the guitar techniques you are trying to integrate. This fragment should consist of the last 2-3 notes of guitar technique #1 and the first 2-3 notes of guitar technique #2.
Step 2: Practice it is as its own (short) “shred guitar lick” until you are able to play it smoothly, cleanly and up to the speed you want.
Step 3: Work outwards by extending your guitar technique fragment from step 2 by 2-3 notes. Before you know it, you’ll be playing the entire shred guitar lick you wanted to play and your guitar techniques will be integrated smoothly and cleanly.
Watch this video to see an illustration of this guitar technique practice process in action:
Bonus tip: put breaks between repetitions of your shred guitar licks. This means: pause after playing your shred guitar lick once to assess:
- how clean it sounds
- how easy your guitar technique feels
- how reliable your neoclassical guitar playing sounds.
After the pause – play the same shred guitar lick again... only once. Assess the sound and feeling of your guitar technique after the second repetition and compare it to that of the first one.
This is a great way to not only refine your guitar technique integration, but also make sure you are playing your shred guitar licks consistently and reliably.
Neoclassical Guitar Playing Tip #3: Practice Muting Excess String Noise In Your Shred Guitar Licks
One of the most common challenges in playing clean Yngwie Malmsteen-style shred guitar licks is sloppy string noise.
The most common causes of noise in lead guitar technique (that get in the way of your ability to play neoclassical guitar licks like Yngwie Malmsteen) are:
- string noise from the thinner (higher in pitch) guitar strings. It happens very often when you are playing shred guitar licks using scale sequences on the thicker strings.
- string noise from the lower (in pitch... aka: thicker) guitar strings. This noise happens often when you play neoclassical guitar licks on the higher strings. It can also happen when you bend guitar strings and do vibrato during your shred guitar licks.
But that’s not all.
- string noise can also happen when the notes on 2 different guitar strings ring together. It happens very often when you are playing some types of scale sequences and arpeggios (especially with distortion).
Here is how to clean up this string noise, so you have an easier time playing neoclassical guitar licks like Yngwie Malmsteen:
To clean up the noise from the higher strings, use the index finger of your fretting hand to touch the thinner strings and keep them from creating sloppiness in your playing.
And as for the lower (thicker) strings?
Use thumb muting. Just like the name implies, your picking hand’s thumb should rest on the thicker strings when you play neoclassical guitar licks.
Then, as you play your shred guitar licks during your guitar solos, slide your picking hand’s thumb up and down the strings to keep the lower ones free from string noise.
Then there is the issue of keeping notes from bleeding together (a common problem that can happen when you try to play neoclassical guitar licks like Yngwie Malmsteen).
There are 2 ways to solve it:
- focus on releasing the note you just played when your fretting hand finger comes down on the next note.
- practice finger rolling to separate the notes that are played on the same fret across several strings with the same finger.
Neoclassical Guitar Playing Tip #4: Get Your Hands In Tight Sync
This is one of the fastest ways to improve your guitar technique and master the ability to play shred guitar licks like Yngwie Malmsteen.
It’s like this:
There are 2 types of guitar speed you have to deal with as you try to master your neoclassical guitar playing:
Your ‘potential’ guitar speed and your ‘usable’ guitar speed.
What’s the difference?
Potential guitar speed is how fast your hands can theoretically (aka: potentially) move, in isolation.
Usable guitar speed is the speed at which you can keep your hands perfectly in sync as you play your neoclassical guitar licks. At that speed all the notes in your guitar technique are clean and accurate.
And your usable speed is the only speed that really counts (it is the only speed you want anyone to actually hear you play your shred guitar licks).
There is a gap between your usable guitar speed and your potential speed.
And for most guitarists who are trying to improve their guitar technique and learn to play shred guitar licks like Yngwie Malmsteen...
It’s quite a big gap.
The faster you close that gap (and the smaller you make it) the better you will feel about your guitar speed.
How do you close the gap between your potential and usable guitar speed? Watch this guitar technique video to find out:
Here are some of my favorite 2-hand synchronization training drills for your guitar technique:
Double picking - this guitar technique drill sounds simple (all you do is pick the notes of your neoclassical guitar lick 2 times), but it greatly challenges your ability to keep your hands in sync.
The reason is: double picking disrupts your 1:1 ratio of picking motions to fretting motions. (This temporarily makes your synchronization harder to achieve in your neoclassical guitar licks.) However, it makes your regular shred guitar licks feel a lot easier when you go back to normal picking.
Unplugged practice – just like the name implies, you practice your guitar technique (and your shred guitar licks) without a guitar amp. This forces you to articulate the notes with a lot more power and (again) makes 2-hand synchronization feel temporarily harder.
But once you go back to using distortion with your normal neoclassical guitar playing sound, you’ll have a much easier time playing shred guitar licks like Yngwie Malmsteen (with better guitar technique than you had before).
Single-string playing – this makes it harder to keep your hands in sync, because you don’t have string changes allowing an opportunity for your synchronization to ‘reset’. So, you have to maintain flawless 2-hand sync for every note in your neoclassical guitar licks.
Neoclassical Guitar Playing Tip #5: Relax Excess Muscle Tension
When it comes to playing advanced (and fast) shred guitar licks like the ones in the style of Yngwie Malmsteen,
... excess muscle tension is your single biggest enemy.
The simplest way to relax excess tension?
Do a ‘tension audit’ through your entire body as you practice your metal guitar licks to build guitar picking speed.
A tension audit is a process where you focus on one part of your body at a time:
Your jaw, your shoulders, your triceps, your forearms, your stomach, your thighs, your calves and feet.... and relax them one by one.
Here is what this looks like:
This process will help you achieve that relaxed guitar technique that Yngwie Malmsteen is famous for.
You now know the best ways to learn and practice neoclassical guitar licks in the style of Yngwie Malmsteen. The next step is to master all other elements of guitar speed, so you can learn to play guitar as fast, as clean and as accurately as you want – without practicing for 8 hours per day. I can help you with this in my free eGuide called Double Your Guitar Speed While Cutting Your Practice Time In Half. Download it today and discover guitar speed building secrets most guitarists don’t know.
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